Thursday, June 16, 2016

Southern Baptists elect known clergy-sex-abuse-cover-upper as president

Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis
(photo by Joni B. Hannigan)

At its June 14-15 annual meeting in St. Louis, the Southern Baptist Convention elected Steve Gaines as SBC president. Gaines, who is the pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee, was implicated in a widely-publicized clergy child molestation cover-up about nine years ago.
Here's what was uncovered at the time: Gaines knew for at least six months that a Bellevue staff minister, Paul Williams, had molested a child, and Gaines simply kept quiet. He did not report the crime to the police, and he also kept Williams’ conduct a secret from the congregation. If a blogger had not made the news public, there’s no telling how long Gaines would have persisted in keeping Williams’ dangerous conduct under wraps.
Nevertheless, despite the fact that Gaines had obviously chosen to prioritize the protection of his staff minister rather than the protection of kids, and despite Gaines’ secrecy, the church chose to retain Gaines as its senior pastor. Gaines faced virtually no consequences.
Furthermore, not only did Gaines keep quiet about the fact that a staff minister had admitted to molesting a child, thereby leaving other kids at greater risk, but he also allowed Williams to continue to serve as a counselor for congregants who had been sexually abused as children. Can you imagine how those people felt when they learned that the very minister who had been counseling them was someone who himself had molested a kid? As one woman later explained her pain: “That a suspected pedophile might have been titillated by the story of her abuse at the hands of a since-deceased relative -- the thought turns her stomach.”
It seemed plenty bad enough at the time that Gaines’ mega-church, Bellevue, had no apparent problem with retaining a senior pastor who kept quiet about a child-molesting-minister. But leave it to Baptists to go from bad to worse in dealing with clergy sex abuse. It now appears that the entire Southern Baptist Convention also has no problem with such cover-up conduct in their highest leaders.
In electing Steve Gaines as SBC president, the largest Protestant denomination in the country has spoken loud and clear: Clergy child molestation cover-ups are no big deal in Baptistland.

See also SNAP's 6/15/2016 press release blasting Southern Baptists' election of new president.

Update: "Advocates fault new SBC president's record on child sex abuse," Baptist News Global, 6/17/2016

Related posts:
"Steve Gaines on Protecting Kids," 12/4/2007
"The Malignancy of Baptist Oblivion to Clergy Sex Abuse," 4/8/2011